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A veil of gold at an industrial estate: Administration building in Seraing

Names apparently play a prominent role in property marketing, even if takes a look at the history books to realise their significance. "L'Orangerie" – the name that the engineering consultancy Cockerill Maintenance & Ingenierie has given its new administration building in Seraing, east Belgium – refers back to the time when the plot was the site of castle gardens that supplied vegetables and fruit, including exotic ones, to the bishops of Liège and their courts. 

In 1817 the castle became the property of the steel magnate Cockerill, who went on to set up his production facilities at the location. Today the industrial complex that came about as a result recalls this aspect of the site's past to a much greater extent than the days when it was a court garden complete with orangeries. This is particularly apparent in a prop-like factory facade and the three ridges of a saw-tooth roofed hall that form a frame for the new building. Designed by the Parisian architects Reichen et Robert, the structure offers 8,250 square metres of space for some 600 employees. Various construction details pay homage to steel engineering and horticulture alike, as seen in the building's second skin in metal of a golden hue. 

Two deeply projecting upper stories at the south-west corner separate the shady interior entrance court from the forecourt, which opens up to the city. The complete building is pillar-free thanks to four gigantic steel lattice girders, which bear the weight of 2,000 tons at a free span of 25 to 35 metres to hold up 2,000 square metres of office space. The girders were prefabricated in a nearby assembly hall and transported by barge on the river Maas to the building site.  

The outside elevations, which in some places take on the form of ribbon facades and are articulated in an irregular arrangement of punch windows in others, are provided a second skin in two-millimetre-thick anodised aluminium with a golden champagne hue. The perforated aluminium sun baffles that form an outer covering on the building's sunny facades are in the same colour.     

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DETAIL 1+2/2020
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